After a group of Johannesburg worshippers was swept away in a flash flood, at least nine people died and eight more are missing, it is believed that the flash flood occurred during a religious ceremony.
After a 33-strong congregation gathered to perform what was believed to be a cleansing or baptism ritual on Saturday, emergency teams were called to the Jukskei River.
On Saturday night, two bodies were discovered. Seven more were discovered when rescue operations resumed on Sunday morning.
According to local reports, family members have been helping to identify their loved ones who are no longer with us.
Robert Mulaudzi, spokesperson for Johannesburg’s emergency services, stated that officials had repeatedly warned residents about the dangers associated with participating in religious ceremonies on the river. This was especially after heavy rains in Johannesburg left many streams empty.
He said in a news conference: “Our residents, particularly congregants, who usually practice these types of rituals, will feel tempted to visit these river streams.
“Our message is to them to be cautious when performing these rituals.”
Baptisms and cleansing rituals are held often along the Jukskei River, which runs through many towns including Alexandra in the east of Johannesburg. This is South Africa’s largest city.
Mr Mulaudzi shared footage from emergency crews, including a helicopter, as they prepared to resume the search Sunday morning.
He also shared a video showing rescue teams walking along the river to search for victims.